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Ball Don't Lie

With the Kings’ sale still being drawn up, GM Geoff Petrie stares down end of his contract

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Petrie introduces top 2012 free agent signing Aaron Brooks, whom he waived eight months later (Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings need a new general manager. They also need a new arena, a new vision, and possibly a trip to a greasy diner while dealing with the hangover resulting from the party that came after Vivek Ranadive’s recent purchase of the team. Even before they decide between sausage and bacon, though, the Kings need a new GM.

The problem is that they have a GM, Geoff Petrie, already in place. And though Petrie is a former NBA Executive of the Year, creating the Kings’ golden era by fleecing teams in trades while drafting smartly, Petrie’s approach has been curious at best and disastrous at worst in the years since. Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, the team has been through seven coaches since then, and there is precious little to show for years of lottery appearances and cap-conscious planning. The influence of the outgoing owners has quite a bit to do with that postseason-less streak, but Petrie has done his own damage as well.

And yet, a day before the NBA’s draft lottery points toward Sacramento’s rookie fate, Petrie is still in charge, still running the team he’s been behind since the Clinton Administration. From Jason Jones, at the Sacramento Bee:

Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie is interviewing prospects for next month's NBA draft while questions about how decisions will be made going forward remain unanswered.

In recent months, there had been little if any communication from the Maloofs about the future of the front office amid the proposed sale and relocation to Seattle that league owners voted down last week.

"I haven't had the opportunity to talk to anybody yet (from Ranadive's group)," said Petrie, whose contract expires at the end of June. "But my understanding is the sale probably won't officially close for a couple more weeks. How that plays into communication, I really don't know at this point."

Because of that paperwork, the final dots and crosses on a major sale for a basketball team somehow valued at $535 million (that’s not a shot at the Kings nor Sacramento, just the spiraling costs for NBA franchises in general), it appears as if the Kings have no choice but to let Petrie finish out his contract, and select his final draft choice.

They're lucky they'll get one. A few more wins, here and there, and the team could have lost out.

Odds say Sacramento will wind up with the sixth pick in next month’s draft, but if the team won 33 or so games and bad luck reared its head once again with these Kings in Tuesday’s lottery and their pick fell to 14th in the draft, it would be forced to hand its pick over to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s the price for a forgotten Petrie trade that sent Omri Casspi to the Cavs in exchange for J.J. Hickson. Hickson has long since moved on, but that conditional draft pick could still go to Cleveland if the Kings reach the low end of the lottery (the pick is top 12 protected next season, and top 10 protected in 2015, 2016, and 2017) in upcoming years.

That’s a killer for any new GM, one that could spearhead a plucky, 38-win season (hey, this would be an improvement), only to lose out on a potential contributor in the first round because Geoff Petrie wanted 644 minutes of J.J. Hickson some years before.

This is all part of the everlasting pall created by the Maloof brothers, a miserable set of owners that hamstrung the Sacramento Kings for years not only by making terrible decisions with their own finances, but by remaining indifferent to the basketball end of things at the worst times (they still meddled with some coaching and personnel decisions) and letting Petrie have his way. And that’s not even getting into the whole part about how this crew tried to, y’know, move the team away from Sacramento.

It’s a bad draft, and all indications point to Petrie having a pick in the second part of a top ten that won’t change the fortunes of the franchise all that much. The real work for the next GM will come in the form of figuring out what to do with all of Petrie’s previous lottery picks – Tyreke Evans is a restricted free agent this summer, DeMarcus Cousins is perhaps the NBA’s most unkindly-regarded big man with size and skill – and determining what can be spent on potential free agents as the team changes hands.

What’s certain, unless the Ranadive group has a basketball mind in place to quickly take over the minute the ink dries, is that Petrie’s regime is on its last legs. A shame, because this is the man that smartly took chances and showed patience with players like Predrag “Peja” Stojakovic, Jason Williams, Hidayet “Hedo” Turkoglu, and Gerald Wallace years before, while securing both Chris Webber and Vlade Divac in the same offseason all for the price of Otis Thorpe, Mitch Richmond, and some free agent bucks. He hired Rick Adelman even after Rick flamed out in Golden State, and constructed the NBA’s second best team for a good two or three-year stretch – only felled by the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers, and a poorly-timed knee injury to Chris Webber.

Time is running out, though. Sadly for all, the only thing that’s getting in the way of Petrie running his last draft for Sacramento is the red tape inherent in the sale of a franchise worth $535 million.

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